As our dogs age, they become more susceptible to arthritis which is one of the most common causes for chronic pain in our canine companions. As with humans, arthritis can be debilitating and greatly affecting your dog’s quality of life. Currently there is no permanent cure for canine arthritis, but it is possible to give your beloved dog arthritis pain relief.
Canine arthritis can cause a great deal of suffering and pain to a dog’s knees, elbows, hips, back and joints, affecting his mobility and mood. He may no longer be able to sit or stand as he previously did, and it may be difficult for him to enjoy even the most basic activities, like walks and trips to the dog park. He may no longer be able to jump onto the bed or into the car. You might also notice that he seems lethargic and depressed.
Thankfully the vast majority of arthritis in dogs is only moderate and not as debilitating as it could be but it is still something that is of great concern to most dog owners as no one wants to see their dog in pain.
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Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
The best way to help your dog is to pay close attention to how he moves, keeping an eye out for the symptoms associated with canine arthritis. When you notice these symptoms or conditions, it’s time to take action. Common symptoms of arthritis include:
- Your dog is limping or favoring one or more limbs for an extended period of time.
- He might no longer be interested in his normal activities, like running, playing, jumping, climbing stairs and going for rides in the car.
- In the morning, your dog wakes up stiff, but gradually improves during the day.
- He is reluctant to stand up and often takes a long time rising from a seated or lying down position.
- Sitting or standing might become difficult, and when your dog does stand, you notice he’s carrying his back half lower to the ground.
- On walks, your pet moves more slowly, often lagging behind you.
- As with any kind of chronic pain, the stress of managing joint discomfort can sap his strength, resulting in decreased alertness and increased sleeping.
- His joints appear swollen and are tender to the touch.
- He doesn’t like to be touched or petted and may yelp or show other signs of pain.
- Some dogs with arthritis might have a smaller appetite, this combined with their reduced activity can result in weight gain.
Keep in mind that although arthritis is probably the cause for your dog’s discomfort, there could be other reasons for the changes in his behavior. For example, Lyme disease can often cause joint pain. He could have degenerative joint problems, which present similarly to canine arthritis, but have a different underlying cause. Hip dysplasia, common in larger dog breeds, is caused by abnormal joint structure and weak musculature, ligaments and cartilage.
If your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above then a veterinary exam and diagnosis will tell you the reason for your dog’s pain. Hopefully the pain will be something that can be treated quickly.
Diagnosing Canine Arthritis
Because your dog’s pain and joint discomfort could be caused by so many different physiological problems, it’s important to take him to the veterinarian as soon as you notice symptoms. In addition to giving your dog a physical exam, performing tests and taking X-rays, your vet will give you prescription medication, usually an anti-inflammatory or analgesic, that can provide relief for your dog.
There are several kinds of canine arthritis. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease or hypertrophic arthritis, is the most common form, caused by weakened cartilage surrounding your dog’s bones, and wear, tear and stress on your dog’s joints. Infectious or septic arthritis is an infection that can cause joint damage, and is usually caused by bacterial or fungal infections and tick-borne diseases. Often hereditary, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an immune-mediated disease and results in the dog’s body attacking its own joints, which weakens the dog’s immune system.
Treatments for Dog Arthritis Pain Relief
Although there is no cure for canine arthritis, your vet can help you find effective treatments, natural remedies, drugs and supplements to manage the condition. These treatments reduce pain and inflammation, helping your dog enjoy a happier, healthier, more comfortable life.
Common prescription medications for treating arthritis include Deramaxx and Metacam, which can both be given every day; however you should speak to you vet to ensure you get the correct medication for your dog and ensure you give them the correct dosage. Unfortunately prescription medications, although extremely effective, can cause serious side effects in some dogs. Keep an eye out for vomiting, diarrhea, change in stool color, excessive drinking and urination, decreased appetite, restlessness and other changes in behavior. Before starting treatment with these medications, it’s best to try safe, natural supplements, moving on to prescription drugs only when you see the natural remedies aren’t effective enough for your dog.
Glucosamine is the most popular natural supplement for treating arthritis pain in dogs, it helps the joints remain lubricated and flexible. Cosequin, which helps support cartilage production, is a glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate supplement that is also safe and effective. Omega-3 fish oils provide the same kind of results. Another natural method for controlling arthritis inflammation is Flexcin, an analgesic that has no serious side effects or harmful ingredients. Similar to maximum strength formula aspirin or acetaminophen, Flexcin reduces swelling to provide relief from discomfort, including knee dislocation and kneecap pain. Other supplements include Synflex, Flexpet and Pawmax. These products provide joint support with no side effects and have positive reviews from pet owners and veterinarians.
If medications and supplements aren’t giving your dog as much arthritis relief as he needs, you can try a few alternatives. Swimming is a wonderful way to strengthen muscles, ligaments and cartilage, and provides a low-impact form of exercise in a warm, weightless pool of water. If you don’t live near a beach or pool, find a canine water therapy provider in your area. Another alternative remedy is canine acupuncture, which works similarly to acupuncture on humans. Some people don’t believe acupuncture is a real therapy, but the anecdotal evidence is powerful: After acupuncture, most dogs are visibly relieved and can experience drug-free release from pain.
Arthritis tends to get worse with cold weather, it is therefore recommended to try and keep your dog warm wherever you can. Small things like keeping the room warm and placing orthopedic foam on the dog’s bed will help to improve your dog’s quality of life, even with arthritis.
If you give your dog or your dog accidentally ingests ibuprofen you MUST get your dog to a vet as soon as possible (we’re talking 1-2 hours). The vet will be able to provide the necessary treatments to your dog and hopefully prevent ibuprofen poisoning taking their life.
How to Prevent Arthritis in Dogs
As the saying goes “Prevention is better than a cure”, so what can we do to help prevent our dogs from getting arthritis in the first place? The below are some suggestions on how you might be able to hold off the onset of arthritis in your dog.
A healthy nutritional diet
By ensuring your dog has a diet that fulfills their nutritional needs will help to ensure their body is able prevent a large number of health problems. Just like with humans, it’s not just a matter of eating the amount of food that fills you up, it is a case of ensuring that you’re getting the right vitamins and minerals in your diet that keeps you healthy.
It is also worth being aware that feeding your dog too much food can result in them gaining more weight than their bones can handle, which can lead to arthritis.
If you struggle to ensure you’re able to give your dog the right amount of vitamins and minerals naturally including supplements in your dog’s diet can be beneficial.
You might consider giving your dog Glucosamine and Omega-3 fish oils as a supplement.
This will come as no surprise but keeping your dog active will help to hold off arthritis. It won’t prevent arthritis forever but it will help.
If your dog is either starting to suffer from arthritis or some other condition that prevents a lot of exercise, swimming is a great exercise that they can do which is low impact on their joints. If you’re able to familiarize your dog with swimming early in their life it will make life easier when you try and get them to swim during the onset of arthritis.
Having a healthy diet and exercising will help not only prevent your dog from getting arthritis but also helps your dog to maintain a healthy weight. There are a wide range of benefits to your dog keeping a healthy weight and helping to prevent arthritis is one of them. An overweight dog will put excessive strain on their joints more than a dog of a healthy weight.
You can help to ensure that you can keep your dog at a healthy weight by keeping an eye on their weight and adjusting how much food you’re giving them. Your vet will also be able to give you guidance on how to adjust their nutrition plan and exercise to keep them healthy.
Prevent joint injury
While this sounds obvious, if your dog ends up injuring their joints they are more likely to suffer from arthritis. Things to look out for is your dog over exercising, jumping too high or running too hard as a puppy, as their bones are still developing and are more likely to get damaged.